Pistons: Top International Draft Prospects in 2015 NBA Draft


Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja rank as the top international prospects on the Detroit Pistons’ 2015 NBA Draft watch list.

Every year there are a few intriguing international NBA prospects that decide to enter the draft, anticipating that a team will roll the dice on mystery and potential. This year, there are two prospects in Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja, from Latvia and Croatia respectively, who hold tremendous upside as future All-stars in the NBA.

The Detroit Pistons are currently in position with the 8th overall pick to be able to draft one of these two players. According to many draft boards including ESPN’s Chad Ford, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman, and CBS Sport’s Sam Vecenie both of those prospects are projected to be picked within the 5-10 range.

Both would serve as excellent picks for the Pistons as they are currently in heavy need of a small forward and a power forward (depending on Greg Monroe’s free agency decision). Although these two prospects have legitimate talent, there are some concerns with how their games will translate to the physicality that the NBA presents.

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Mario Hezonja represents a perfect fit with the Pistons, as a 6’6″ 215 pound wing player. In the last season, he played 54 games, shooting 45% from the field and 37% from three-point range. Stan Van Gundy’s system prioritizes shooting as evident by last season’s free agent signings of Jodie Meeks, Caron Butler, and Cartier Martin. Drafting Hezonja would be an ideal fit alongside of Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

His ability to stretch the floor would be called upon right away for the team. The Pistons have a major hole in their starting lineup at the small forward position. Caron Butler and Tayshaun Prince played majority of the minutes at the 3 spot and now are both going into the end of their careers at age 35. There is a youth movement present in Detroit that both of those players do not fit with. Hezonja is only 20 years old. He has the potential to grow alongside the other players.

The one knock that critics have on Hezonja is his overall defensive ability. He has the high-level athleticism and the physical tools to become a terrific on-ball defender. It will be an asset in the NBA but there are questions regarding his makeup and whether or not he can provide effort consistently.

The Pistons have an improving perimeter defender in Caldwell-Pope, but, are in great demand for another wing defender who can share the responsibilities of guarding the elite perimeter players in the league. If Hezonja is available to the Pistons, Van Gundy should seriously consider taking him. He has the upside and the skills to become great within Van Gundy’s system.

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  • Kristaps Porzingis is another fascinating prospect that at age 19 has elite skills that fit today’s NBA style. With the seemingly inevitable transition to more perimeter based offense, teams covet power forwards who fit the role of a “stretch-4”. Specifically with Van Gundy, who favors the 1-in, 4-out offensive structure.

    Porzingis is a legitimate 7’0″ tall. In the Eurocup league this past season, he shot almost 50% from the field, and 36% from three-point land. 36% from the perimeter grades out to above league-average in the NBA from the 2014-2015 regular season. With the impending free agency of Greg Monroe, the Pistons would be wise to consider a replacement in the draft.

    Porzingis represents a much better fit next to Andre Drummond, who primarily plays with his back to the basket and in the paint area. Stretch-4s have plenty of value in the league for many reasons. Often when a team trots out two post players, the paint becomes extremely clogged, eliminating lanes for ball-handlers and slashers to make plays in the area.

    Reggie Jackson works well as a driver and as a pick and roll threat. However he needs the space to be able to create plays for himself and the rest of the Piston players. Porzingis’s ability to shoot could set him up on the perimeter as a drive and kick threat to Jackson’s abilities. Although stretch-4’s tend to be more finesse players that are out of the perimeter, not every team uses that role in their offense.

    Porzingis only weighs in at 210 pounds, which is extremely thin for a forward. In comparison, Reggie Jackson is around 205 pounds. Porzingis is currently garnering a lot of attention because of his offensive versatility. He will need to gain considerable weight to keep up with the physicality in the NBA. The Pistons will consider him in order to keep their options open this summer. He represents a good fit alongside of Drummond and Jackson. Drummond has the defensive ability to help Porzingis out of the gate on that end of the court.

    These two international draft prospects are picking up steam around the league with general managers and teams. High-upside players with offensive versatility that fits the modern NBA don’t come around too often. Stan Van Gundy will have a tough decision to make if either one of these players is available at the 8th spot in the draft.

    Next: NBA Mock Draft

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